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Taking a scalpel to hospital ticket scalpers

By Zhang Yi and Wang Xiaodong (China Daily) Updated: 2016-02-04 07:45

Taking a scalpel to hospital ticket scalpers

Patients wait in line for the registration windows to open at the Beijing Stomatological Hospital on Wednesday. The windows open at 7 am to sell tickets for treatment, and it is a common practice for people to use stools or other objects to reserve a place in the line. Photos by Zou Hong / China Daily

High demand for medical services has provided golden opportunities for unscrupulous gangs to fleece unsuspecting patients at some of the nation's major hospitals. Despite an official crackdown, the law-breakers continue to operate, as Zhang Yi and Wang Xiaodong report.

Wu Yutian arrived at Peking University First Hospital, a renowned establishment in downtown Beijing, at 2 am after a 60-minute bike ride in a bone-chilling November wind. When he entered the registration hall, Wu was annoyed to see a number of plastic bottles lined up in front of the registration windows, because in China, it's a common practice to place bottles in the line to reserve a space.

Wu seethed as he looked at the bottles in the empty hall, convinced that they had been placed there by ticket scalpers.

Taking a scalpel to hospital ticket scalpers

"They had been left there to reserve places in the line for appointment tickets, which are sold when the registration desk opens at 7 am. But until 5:30 am, there was not a single person guarding the bottles.

I was outraged, thinking about how disappointed my wife, who was pregnant, would be when she arrived at the hospital at 8 am and I told her I had been unable to get a ticket," the 35-year-old said.

"A ticket to see a senior doctor in the obstetrics department at Peking University hospital costs around 14 yuan ($2) but the scalpers sell them for 300 yuan," he said.

Most hospitals require patients to reserve tickets for routine treatment. Larger hospitals usually operate a platform that allows patients to book online or by telephone, but those tickets usually have to be booked months or at least weeks in advance.

Patients who want to see a senior doctor or require an immediate medical check usually have to buy tickets in person, which encourages scalpers to put chairs or plastic bottles in front of the registration window to reserve places in the line.

Viral video

A video clip that recently attracted widespread public attention on social media showed an unidentified woman at Guang'anmen Hospital, one of China's best-known centers for traditional Chinese medicine, in downtown Beijing.

In the clip, shot by a member of the public on Jan 19, the woman denounced the apparent collusion between hospital security staff and scalpers, saying she had waited in line all day only to be told that the tickets had sold out. She complained that scalpers in the line, who arrived after her, had obtained tickets, and had offered to sell her one for 4,500 yuan, far more than that the original price of 300 yuan.

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